Every week I find myself working with clients with the hope that they have found a genuine Stradivarius violin. They seek my expert advice, and ask me to help them understand what they have really found in their attic. There is certainly no shortage of violins that bare the label, “Antonius StradivariusCremonensis” (Cremonensis, is the Latinized name of town in Italy where he worked). Some of these instruments read, “Made in Germany” or “Made in Czechoslovakia” and some only state the makers name. For any experienced violin maker or restorer it takes one second to know a real Stradivarius from an average copy. Often times, these are crudely made student instruments that wouldn’t sell, so shops and dealers would label an instrument to suggest quality. Being able to identify the instrument’s authenticity is important, especially for those families who are new to violin lessons and instrument sales.
Antonio Stradivari only printed a first digit “1” and the last three digits were hand written (see pictures). Towards the end of his life he would not write a date, but only mention his age, such as, “I made it in my 89th year” and so on. And as you can imagine it would not be written in German or English. The label in these student instruments typically print the first two digits and the last two digits were hand written. It is important to understand that these labels aren’t meant to trick you, but are strategis for greater sales and branding.
Authentic label, hand written 732, old Roman font and Master’s age.
Fairly modern font 17 is printed
This one is funny! Stradivari died in 1737
Many other important and obscure Italian names were also used on labels by factories, workshops and dealers of instruments: Amati, Guarneri, Gagliano, Ruggieri and many others. One should also give attention to the font. It is likely the font is fairly modern – a font unknown in the 18th century.
However, even decent copies of Stradivarius could be worth serious money. So, never throw away any instrument. Bring it to an expert and have it examined – it might possibly be worth something. There is certainly a demand for old instruments, and very often an instrument might be worth restoring and thereby giving the opportunity of playing it to a young talented musician. There are better quality copies of Stradivarius instruments made by famous makers like Roth, Heberlein or JTL. Instruments of this caliber are highly sought after and prices are steadily rising.
If you are still not sure about your find you might consider sending us pictures of instrument and bow ( front, back and side of the scroll) via our contact us page. I can write a paragraph about your instrument for a small fee and you would have no doubt about what you might have on hands.
Princeton Violins was founded by Jarek Powichrowski, a JuilliardSchool educated professional violinist, New York trained string instrument restorer and violin maker who studied violin making in Cremona, Italy with the best contemporary Italian makers. Jarek Powichrowski is also an expert appraiser of antique instruments.
Princeton Violins, 240 Nassau street Princeton, NJ.
Open Tues.-Sat. 10-5. Tel 609-683-0005.